Last Updated :30/12/05
Scooping to Easter Island - Part 2
By Mark Enderby (with update from Steve Westby).
While I don’t tend to travel on dedicated beer trips, no "normals" holiday is complete without seeking out new beers and breweries. This year’s holiday started in Brazil and passed through Argentina and Chile before ending up on Easter Island. Some prior research on the web pulled out some brewpubs in Argentina but not much else, so armed with this information we headed off into the unknown ….
This is part 2 of Mark's adventures - Click to see Part 1 (Brazil) or Part 3 (Chile).
The web suggested that BA would be much more fruitful with a potential 3 brewpubs available. The first was just to the NW of the city centre at Pte R M Ortiz 1827. This is a pleasant pedestrianised street lined with bars and restaurants. BullerBrewing Co was founded in 1999 and is clearly modelled on a US brewpub. Regular beers included an excellent, hoppy IPA, an Octoberfest, Light Lager, Wheat, Stout and Cream Ale (the latter being more like a pleasant hoppy light bitter). An Amber was also available as the seasonal. A sampler tray suggested that there was a Honey Ale at 8.5% but tasting showed it to be the Wheat. All the beers were extremely pleasant and 2 return trips were made to keep the hop count up !
The second brewpub was more obscure. The Brewhouse Club is located in a seedier part of town at Estados Unidos 745. This is best reached by a cab to Chacabuco and Estados Unidos. The bar is just west of this junction on the north side of the road. The entrance is rather obscure and protected by a metal grill door which you have to rattle for admittance. Inside is a pleasant bare brick "cellar-style" bar decorated with breweriana. At 7.30pm it was sparsely populated with some office workers and a family. Service was somewhat slow but we eventually got a glass of the Pale Ale (Dorado) which was pleasant, unfiltered, but not unduly hoppy. Next beer tried was a typical Dark and this was followed by the seasonal which was Anis. This was extremely murky and had obviously seen better days. (Linda blamed this for the state of her stomach the next day !). There was also a Crystal but time was drawing on and we had to get to Buller fo some food (and IPA). The brewing operation was interesting. Two overgrown Baby Burcos shared the bar space and the brewer was carefully decanting the contents of one of these into large carboys (approx 8g). These had a fermentation lock put in and moved to a back room. Once ready, they were moved behind the bar for service and the dispense equipment attached directly ! Despite the Heath Robinson setup, it was clear that great care was being taken with the brewer using disposable gloves before taking the gravity and checking the beer was ready to ferment.
The third brewpub, the "Viejo Belgrano" is supposedly at Amenabar 2363, but we couldn’t locate it and time had run out as we had to head of to Bariloche on the edge of Patagonia, in the foothills of the Andes.
I had found a vague reference to a brewpub close by, but was unprepared for what I found.
Blest brewpub is 11.5Km west of Bariloche – the road is conveniently marked in kilometres and served by a very good bus service all day and evening. This claims to be Argentina’s first brewpub and opened in 1989. The small "Firkin style" plant is located in the rear of the bar area and beers are served from 5 large tanks. My heart rose to see to handpulls on the bar, one with a clip proclaiming real ale. However, these actually just operated switches and hence there for effect. The bar had a considerable amount of breweriana including many UK beer mats (including some from Greenalls – is there no escape ?). Draught beers were Stout, Bock, Pilsner, Raspberry and "Half and Half". The latter being an red style beer. A sampler was available and all the beers found to be pleasant but not outstanding. The best being the Stout. The beers were also available in bottle and these – plus brewery souvenirs – could be purchased in the attached gift shop.
Back in Bariloche, it was apparent that there was a big thing on "artesnal" food and drink. The Argentinian hop industry is centred on the small town of El Bolson, just south of Bariloche and there appeared to be a cluster of micros based in the area which supplied the local shops and supermarkets.
Besides the Blest beers, the most common were from the El Boson brewpub (this is reputed to have some 8 beers on draught). Four of the bottles (all unfiltered) were tried – Patagonia Ale (3.9%) which was very lively with a floury sediment which meant it had to be served cloudy; de Trigo (5%) a wheat beer; Negra Extra (6.2%) a dark porter and Negra Extra XXX (8%) which was obviously a stronger version of the former. In addition, a honey beer and several fruit beers were available.
Glaistig (4.5%) from Chubut (near El Boson) was similar to the Patagonia Ale and had an intriguing Celtic design label which presumably had something to do with the local Welsh.
There were other beers under the Weiss label. Weiss are a local family with restaurant and deli interests in town. We had been to their restaurant which should have sold the draught but it was off. I tried the Weiss Red (5.6%) in bottle which was very pleasant. There also appeared to a Pilsner and a Stout but no Weiss weiss ! It wasn’t clear where these beers were brewed – the label suggesting they were brewed for Weiss. My belief is that they are actually Blest beers since the portfolio is similar.
Finally a bottle of Antares Porter (5.5%). This came from Plata del Mar, just south of BA. A 5% Kolsh and a 6% Scotch were also available.
Steve Westby's Update - April 2005.
Thanks to Mark's article we visited both brewpubs in Buenos Aires but also couldn't locate the Viejo Belgrano. I found the Bullers brewpub ok but it was too much like your typical US outlet to be particularly interesting. The Brewhouse though was fascinating and just as Mark describes, there were just four other people in there on our visit. We ate a selection of empinadas (a bit like miniature cornish pasties) with a variety of fillings, and very tasty they were too. The beer was very enjoyable and in good condition, also not too cold or gassy. We had a Scottish style ale at 5%, a 7% Golden brew and Negra, a type of stout, at 5.5%. Well worth seeking out, take a taxi they must be the cheapest in the world, I swear I paid about 40p to go a couple of miles. Incidentally I found one or two other interesting brews in Buenos Aires including a draught porter but I have gone and lost my notes so can't say what they were! Unexpectedly we found Buenos Aires to be a much more interesting city than Rio, more cosmopolitan almost reminiscent of Barcelona and the prices were unbelievably cheap.